MDEQ to Congressman Kildee, Sen. Ananich and State Reps: “City has no unresolved violations of state and federal drinking water standards”

Despite rising concerns about City of Flint’s sampling protocol and reporting of lead results, MDEQ maintains that the City has no unresolved violations of state and federal drinking water standards. On Tuesday, Flint citizens demanded that EPA conduct an independent investigation of MDEQ and the City’s sampling, in light of allegations in the ACLU report.

MDEQ has also now responded to letters from Congressman Dan Kildee and Sen. Jim Ananich, State Rep. Neeley & State Rep. Phelps which are posted below in this article.

For those who want a simple explanation of the legislator’s questions and the MDEQ responses, we provide a summary table below. For some questions posed, there was no response, perhaps it will be forthcoming in the MDEQ briefing next week.

 

Select questions from Congressman Kildee, Sen. Ananich, State Rep. Neeley and State Rep. Phelps: MDEQ’s response (culled from two letters below):
Congressman Kildee:

“The [EPA memo] suggests that there are high levels of lead in the city of Flint, Mich., water transmission lines.”

 

Are the findings of the EPA memo regarding lead levels in Flint water accurate?

Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

  • When did the MDEQ become aware of the [EPA memo] and whom was it shared with?
  • Which Flint city officials also received this information?
  • What response did MDEQ hake to the EPA concerns raised in the memo?
  • Were any actions taken by the MDEQ as a result of the issues mentioned in the memo?
  • “The MDEQ does not review or receive draft memos from US EPA, nor would they expect to do it while in a draft form.”
  • Flint water has “no unresolved violations of state and federal standards.”
Congressman Kildee:

“I am very troubled by recent tests$ suggesting high levels of lead in Flint’s water system”

 

Given the demonstrated level of lead in the water in Flint, MI, is the water safe?

 

$ FLINTWATERSTUDY notes: Refers to Virginia Tech’s testing

 

 

  • “Regulations associated with lead […] require communities to monitor water quality at customer taps. […] Any home with lead plumbing or service connections will impart some amount of lead to water samples. […] The City’s monitoring program’s purpose is to show aggregated levels throughout the entire system, not individual home levels.”
  • “Each customer with an individual sample result that exceeds 15 parts per billion is provided information on actions they can take to limit lead exposure in drinking water.”
  • “There has always been detectable levels of lead in the City’s water sampling program for homes that have lead plumbing and service connections” both before and after the switch to Flint River; the switch itself has not resulted in an Action Level exceedance
  • “The City performed extensive home tests for lead […] last year and this year, and is meeting state and federal drinking water standards.”
  • Flint water has “no unresolved violations of state and federal standards.”
Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

“And most importantly, what can be done immediately to ensure safe, affordable drinking water for the citizens of Flint?”

  • “MDEQ is working closely with Flint’s water department and USEPA to ensure Flint residents have ample water that meets state and federal standards.”
  • “MDEQ takes seriously its responsibility to ensure safe drinking water for all Michigan residents.”
Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

What steps, if any, were taken to determine the validity of the Virginia Tech study?

NO RESPONSE
Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

  • Please explain why the pre-flushing method of sampling was used in this instance.
  • Is it the same method that is applied to all sampling or does the agency have the discretion to decide?
  • Who is responsible for making the decision to pre-flush?
  • The EPA recommends allowing water to rest for at least six hours, but no more than 12 hours, before taking a sample. On MDEQ’s website, it suggests flushing the line for five minutes before the six-hour rest. How did the department arrive at this method?
“Flint’s test results were conducted according to the same testing protocols every Michigan community uses and the same protocols Flint has used to test its water every three years for the past 25 years.”
Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

 

The EPA memo references the Lead and Copper Rule requirement that systems greater than 50,000 users maintain “corrosion control treatment.” As the regulator, why did the MDEQ choose not to enforce this standard?

 

“While the results from Flint’s testing show compliance with the federal action level for lead and copper, on August 17, 2015, MDEQ instructed the City to move forward expeditiously with developing additional corrosion control treatment to minimize the corrosive effects between drinking water and lead service connections and home plumbing in the Flint service area.”

 

Congressman Kildee:

 “The [EPA memo] reflects that children consuming this water had levels of lead in their blood in excess of three times what they were prior to the city of Flint switching its source water from Detroit […] to the Flint River.”

“Local health departments also administer annual blood level testing on children in Flint; results show no discernable rise in levels that might be expected if there was an elevated lead level in the City water supply.”
Congressman Kildee:

“It is the responsibility of these agencies (MDEQ and EPA) to ensure that the people of the city of Flint have safe drinking water.”

  • “MDEQ maintains a robust public water supply regulatory program through long-standing partnerships with the USEPA and the state’s regulated public water systems.”
  • “The MDEQ continues to work with City and federal regulators on the shared goal of ensuring safe, reliable drinking water in this community.”
Congressman Kildee:

If there were high lead levels of lead in the water in the city of Flint, when did the EPA and/or MDEQ plan to alert the public?

 

NO RESPONSE

Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

Who refused the EPA’s offer of expert assistance and why?

NO RESPONSE
Sen. Ananich, State Reps Neeley and Phelps:

  • Is the damage done to the pipes (as described in the EPA report) accurate?
  • If yes, will damaged pipes continue to leach lead or will properly treated water safely reach consumers?
  • What is the plan and timeline to address it?
NO RESPONSE

Readers are also encouraged to read the initial letters from Congressman Dan Kildee and Sen. Jim Ananich, State Rep. Neeley and State Rep. Phelps to USEPA & MDEQ and MDEQ respectively.

MDEQ to Congressman Kildee:

Download (PDF, 36KB)

MDEQ to Sen. Ananich, State Rep. Neeley and State Rep. Phelps:

Download (PDF, 440KB)

Primary Author: Siddhartha Roy

Acknowledgements: Dr. Marc Edwards

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